Discussing Spiritual Differences- Revelation 3:19-20, Ezekiel 18:32

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

COMMENTARY

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten
The first and most important thing to understand when giving moral reproof is that it should only ever be an act of love. And the first and most important thing to understand when receiving moral reproof is that love can exist in a painful experience.
Everyone who has sought out God will know what it is to be chastened. Everyone who has become a true follower will have felt the reproof of their maker. When someone I know to be a genuine disciple of Christ has called me to repentance I have been greatly helped by the knowledge that they have sat in my seat, too, being called to repentance themselves.
For as the verse above says, there are none whom God loves that He has not chastened. And there are none that God does not love.

I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, wherefore turn yourselves, and live
I believe it is easy to take offense when called to repentance because we confuse the intentions behind it with the world’s use of reproof. The world criticizes those that are wrong in order to condemn them, to justify cutting them off, to argue that they should die socially, perhaps even literally!
But unlike the world, God takes no pleasure in death, or condemnation, or the loss of any child. He does not call us out on our sins to say “so you see, this is why I have no reason to love you.” If God is chastising us it only means that we are still within reach and He is trying to save us. True condemnation from God would not be words of fury, it would be silence.
If you feel moved to call out another on their follies, then you should pause to consider whether your own motivations are similarly pure. Are you driven by the worldly form of reproof or the divine call to repentance? Is your desire to make them feel your displeasure or to awaken them to God’s love? Are you doing this to rid yourself of their sins or to sow a brighter future? Are you trying to damn them or to save them? If it is the latter, then carry on as that same spirit guides you. If it is the former, then they are absolutely right to reject you and take offense.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- 2 Timothy 2:14, Matthew 22:38-39, Doctrine and Covenants 121:41

Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.

This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

COMMENTARY

Strive not about words to no profit
When you find yourself needing to express a moral conviction to someone else, what is your motivation behind doing that? To get them to change their behavior for your benefit? To get what you want from them? Because if so, then you are not testifying of truth, you are having an argument or a debate. And in some circles argument and debate might be fitting, such as in academia, but as this verse makes clear they are of no use when testifying of the truth. Ultimately, when we are trying to influence the religious perspective of another person it should never be motivated by a desire to receive something from them.

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself
The motivation for expressing our moral convictions and exercising an influence over another person should only ever be one of love. Rather than asking them to change for our own benefit, we should be inviting them to change for their own benefit. We should be making our case because we care for them and truly believe that their lives will be happier with this piece of enlightenment.
Recall the example of Daniel that we just examined. He was petitioning the prince of the eunuchs to let him eat a diet that conformed to his religious convictions, but he only made any headway when he illustrated how this approach was also going to help the prince of the eunuchs get what he wanted as well. When those we teach can feel that we sincerely seek their own good, and are not just trying to mold the world to our own preferences, they are far more likely to care about what we say.

Influence ought to be maintained only by love unfeigned
But remember that our display of care and concern for the person we speak with must be “unfeigned.” We must not pretend to care for someone just to coerce them into doing what we want. The account of Daniel also made clear that the compassion between him and the guards was sincere.
So do change those around you, but only do it because you sincerely love them and just want to help them.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Missionary Work

Ten years ago I served a mission, seeking to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to any who would hear. Some people were genuinely relieved to have us turn up on their doorstep. Some of them were disinterested, but turned us away kindly. Some of them quickly shut off the television and pretended that no one was home. Some, however, felt deeply offended that we had come calling at their house, and before we could say a thing shouted at us until we left.

And, to be fair, I get why people don’t like to talk to missionaries. First there is the matter of repetition. Many religious sects will frequently change the missionaries that they have in an area. Thus you can tell the first set “no, thank you,” but then a next pair arrives and they don’t know that you’ve already expressed your disinterest. You keep having to say “no, thank you” over and over, and eventually the “thank you” gets replaced with stronger verbiage.

Another reason is that some missionaries are simply insufferable. Obviously every one of them should be driven by a genuine love for those they teach. Their great, motivating desire should be to help all people however they can. But I have been a missionary, and I can attest that this is not true for all of them. Many of them truly do have sincere and good intentions, but there are also those that you can practically feel the holier-than-thou dripping off of.

And the last reason that comes to mind is that each of us have areas of life that we know we can improve on. We feel guilty, but many of us are in denial of that guilt. In this case even a heartfelt, loving invitation to a better life might feel like a judgment of how sinful we are right now. A salesman might come and point out dirt on our house and try to sell us a cleaning solution. We might be disinterested in the product, but not offended. But a missionary reminding us of the dirt in our soul? That is a much more touchy matter.

Thus I see work to be done on both sides so that proselyting efforts can be given with care and can be received with the same spirit by which it was given. In a perfect world missionaries would all establish a caring relationship first, then seek to share their light as a friend instead of a stranger. And in a perfect world each of us would be honest to ourselves about our own guilt and would be open to those who can help us become the sons and daughters we were born to be.

Influence and Persuasion- Alma 20:20-22, 23; 22:5, 15

And he stretched forth his hand to slay Ammon. But Ammon withstood his blows, and also smote his arm that he could not use it.
Now when the king saw that Ammon could slay him, he began to plead with Ammon that he would spare his life.
Now the king, fearing he should lose his life, said: If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to half of the kingdom.

Now the king said unto them: What is this that ye have said concerning the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, this is the thing which doth trouble me.
And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.

COMMENTARY

Now the king, fearing he should lose his life, said: If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee half of the kingdom
My wife pointed out to me how a story in the Book of Mormon applies very well to this topic of study. In it, a king is hostile towards a missionary and tries to kill him. But when the missionary gains the upper hand and the king sees that his own life is in danger, he immediately tries to bargain. As we see in this verse, he is motivated by that fear to give up an entire half of his kingdom, which would make his assailant as powerful as he is. Fear is a powerful way to pressure people into doing things.

And after Aaron had expounded these things the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life? I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
Of course the missionary does not kill the king, which catches the king by surprise. Later, when the king meets the brother of that missionary, he requests to be taught. For the first time the king hears the gospel message, and at this point he is filled with hope, not fear. Now he makes another offer, this time for his entire kingdom, which would leave himself powerless, if only he can have the goodness that his heart desires.
This story is a wonderful example of how fear is a powerful motivation, but hope is even greater. People that are inspired by hope will always be able to do more than those who are driven by fear.

The Doing Muscle- Question

For this study I wanted to take a broader topic, one that I expect will take me to a plethora of different scriptures and examples. The motivation for this particular topic stems from a conversation I had recently, where I spoke about how scripture study agitates my conscience into wanting to be better, and how I still struggle to meet that desire.

With this study, then, I want to examine how one develops the power of actually doing. How does one take the knowledge in their mind, the desire in their heart, and turn these into the actions that they actually do? For it is abundantly clear to me that having knowledge is the first step to changing oneself, yet one can have a sound understanding of right behavior but not live a single piece of it.

I would be curious in the meantime to hear how you have faced this challenge in your own life. What do you do when you know what is right, but you just feel no motivation to do it? Have you ever attained your goals of self-development, but then struggled to extend yourself to new ones? Are there any core principles that you cultivated in your heart first, and from that found other practices naturally falling into line?

The Virtue of Remembering- Luke 11:9, John 14:14, 1 John 1:9

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

COMMENTARY

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us

We have considered how God asks to remember the good things that He has done for others, and also the good things that He has done for us. By reflecting on these we find the hope to do new good works. But this is not all. God does not only invite us to remember what has been done, but also to reflect on what will be done.
God makes promises for our future, blessings to be delivered “then,” if we will prove faithful “now.” And they are very rich promises as well. He assures that we will gain understanding, that we will receive what we seek, and that we will be forgiven of our sins. By remembering just the promise of these things we are encouraged to live in such a way that one day we are remembering the fulfillment of them instead.

The Virtue of Remembering- John 14:26, Doctrine and Covenants 6:22-23

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?

COMMENTARY

The Holy Ghost, shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you
Did I not speak peace to your mind? What greater witness can you have?
We have seen how many of us begin our path of discipleship by remembering the good that God has done for others, and by that having hope that He will do the same for us. But this is not to be the end of our journey. Each one of us is meant to join the scriptural records with some personal accounts of our own.
Notice how Jesus left his disciples with the promise that they would be able to remember what he, himself, had said to them. All their lives they had had the story of Moses to reflect on, but that was not to be the only pillar of their faith any longer. Now they had their own personal experiences, words of the Savior spoken directly to them, to help sustain them as well.
Peter, James, John and the others had forefathers who had lived by the manna that was sent from heaven. But now Jesus was pointing out to them that they had a manna of their own to take courage from as well.
Each one of us must also come to see how God has nourished us directly, and then hold to the remembrance of that forever after.

The Virtue of Remembering- Hebrews 11:3, 7, 11, 17, 24, 29-30, 32-34

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
By faith Noah prepared an ark to the saving of his house.
Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed.
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac,
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down.
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

COMMENTARY

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God
By faith Noah prepared an ark to the saving of his house
Hebrews 11 is a wonderful treatise on faith, and well worth an examination just for that. But today I actually wanted to take a step back, look at Paul’s methodology in the chapter as a whole, and glean what we can from his teaching style.
What Paul is doing through this entire sequence is reminding the saints about miracles that have already occurred, even ones that occurred anciently and are only known because of the scriptural record that was kept of them.
Which I do believe is one of the exact reasons why God has kept and preserved the scriptures: so that we can be reminded of the good that He has already done, and thus feel empowered to ask Him to do new good works in us.
Which is exactly where most of us begin our path of discipleship. We didn’t have our own miracles to reflect on, so we had to reflect on the miracles of others instead. If He did all this for Noah, Sara, Abraham, Moses, and the Israelites, if He did all this for our pastor, our family member, our friend…then why not us as well?
Paul understands that reflecting on these stories, even though they are not our own, will still generate greater faith in our hearts, which leads us to take our own leaps of faith, which finally allows us to have our own miracles to recall.

The Virtue of Remembering- Personal Example

At the start of this month I shared a personal goal for myself: to cut down on my use of media and entertainment. Now when I first made that commitment to myself I was thoroughly convinced on it. I knew that it was the right thing to do and I was actually excited to get started.

The next day I started to wonder if I had made a terrible mistake.

Of course, all the reasons to make this transformation in my life were still valid, but I just couldn’t make myself care about them anymore. In fact, it wasn’t long before I caught myself breaking my commitment, and not even maliciously, I had simply forgotten about the things that had once seemed so important.

Children of God are like this. We have real moments of grandeur where we sincerely want all that is good…followed by a long reversion back into our default “meh” state.

Now with my personal example, once I started thinking again about what my commitment had been and why I had made it, some of that old fire started to rekindle. It really felt like blowing on the coals, bit-by-bit getting the heat back into them until they could ignite again.

As such I’ve instituted a regular “blowing on the coals” practice into my day. Every couple hours an alarm goes off on my phone, reminding me to recite back my commitments and the reasons for why I am doing them. (Yes, the irony of using an alarm on my phone to remind me to not use digital media is not lost on me!)

I hope that in time I will learn to be a better rememberer. But even if I do, I suspect I will always require a time of refreshing, recommitting, and renewing. It is okay that we forget, we just have to be sure, then, to remind ourselves.

Active Discipleship- Zephaniah 1:12, Malachi 3:14

And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.

Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?

COMMENTARY

The men that are settled: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither do evil
It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance
The only reason why any of us do anything in this life is because we expect to gain something worthwhile by it. The easiest actions to take are those that are immediately pleasurable, such as eating, sleeping, and pursuing entertainment. But we can even learn to endure actions that are momentarily inconvenient if they provide later benefits, such as exercising, gaining an education, or working a job. Even selfless acts of service still benefit us for the warmth of conscience we gain by them.
Indeed, we can perform any action and overcome any obstacle, so long as we are properly motivated by the promise of goodness afterward. But if there is something for which we see no gain, then we will struggle immensely to invest in it. The root of complacency then, is the lack of desire, the inability to see any reward in the striving. These verses I have quoted describe those that do not see the profit in following God. I have been in that state myself, where life seems pretty fine just how it is, so why should I distress myself with the difficult work of spiritual progression? Why should I lay up treasures in an unseen heaven, when there is mortal pleasure to be had in the here and now?
An object at rest will stay at rest. This is our natural and default state, it is the entropy to which all of us would be consigned if God did not come and disrupt our lives. But He does disrupt, and tomorrow we will examine how he puts the desire in us that we all need to push forward.